Young people interested in spending their lives working with animals often stay on the farm to try to make a living, especially if they have a small family and a large farm. Most often, though, kids graduating high school take a look at what everyone else is doing and they head off to college, usually with very little thought to what they will do once they get there. Students with a passion for animals see animal science as a logical major but then are stumped when someone asks them what they will do with such a degree in animal science. Will they become a vet? No. Will they farm? Maybe. But what other options are there? In this article, we will explore the career of dairy nutrition consultant.
What is the Job?
In the dairy industry there are two competing forces. The first is milk production and the price we get for the milk. The second is the feed the animals consume and the price we pay for the feed. We have to have good quality feed in order for the cows (or goats or sheep) to produce milk but we also need to get the feed at a price that will not be greater than the price we can get for the milk produced. One of the most important jobs on a farm is making sure that the animals are eating enough of the right things, but not too much. Most farmers feel adequate to the task but a smart farmer will consult with someone. That someone is a dairy nutrition consultant. Their job is to help the farmer balance the cows’ feed (the ration) with how much the farmer has to spend on feed. It is a delicate balance but a rewarding job when done well.
For a dairy nutrition consultant, a bachelor’s degree in animal science is almost always necessary. While it is possible to work your way up the ladder within a feed company, many farmers these days have degrees themselves and are starting to demand that their consultants have a bachelor’s degree as well, if not a master’s degree. In a bachelor’s degree you will find it necessary to have courses in animal nutrition but you can’t start those without at least one course in chemistry. In the dairy industry, you would be expected to have a course in ruminant nutrition, as well as a course in ration formulation.
Courses to Consider
Courses that would be immensely helpful would be in anatomy and physiology, lactation physiology, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. You would also find it useful to have a course in the management of dairy cattle and even possibly beef cattle. The latter would help you diversify as many farms have a dairy and a beef part of their operations.
An internship would be incredibly helpful as you look for other activities to strengthen your education and your resume. There are a tremendous number of conferences, both practical and scientific, that would be helpful not only as you are preparing for a foray into the field but certainly after you start as a dairy nutrition consultant. One thing to remember is that consultants only get business and get paid if the farmers feel that their information and advice is worthwhile. Start networking now to build a good base of clients. Free advice to get them interested is always a good way to begin a relationship with a farmer.